by K4 Architects
Awards RIBA West Midlands Award 2019
The need to house our rapidly ageing population is becoming more and more pressing and being able to do that in a way that empowers them and transforms their lives is something we should all aspire to. This is exactly what Beech Gardens has achieved. This development of 26 well-proportioned and light filled dual aspect apartments has been designed to the HAPPI principles (Housing our Ageing Population: Panel for Innovation) providing the residents with a sociable and inspiring home.
Delivered by a regional Housing Association within tight budgeted constraints the scheme provides a dynamic and contemporary provision of sheltered housing that is much enjoyed by the tenants.
The apartments occupy a simple pitched roof block has then been beautifully elevated to the south by individual winter gardens and to the north by a covered access deck and circulation. These winter gardens provide a social heart to the scheme and residents have spared no time in personalising them. These personalised spaces are then contained by the strong architectural rhythm of the facade which allows the architecture to frame these moments of individualisation.
The pragmatic symmetrical plan is set around the central stair and lift which provides access to the first floor and a wide deck that allows residents to take their mobility scooters right to their front doors where charging points are located.
The choice of materials and simple detailing has ensured a unified whole to the scheme while providing a strong and purposeful architectural approach. Being set back from the road and the ancient beech tree from which the scheme takes its name, the building has a presence that the allows it to read as something more than a series of apartments as it addresses its south facing landscaped grounds.
To provide a sense of privacy to the outside space the four bungalow units sit as pairs either side of the central lawn and are provided with entrances both from the street and the development. These single-story units partly enclose the linear garden that runs in front of the main block. Here each apartment has been provided with their own area to tend adjacent to their winter garden while communal planting areas as well as a boules court provide more opportunities for social interaction.
High levels of insulation, a whole house ventilation system with heat recovery as well as the effective winter gardens have all been effectively employed to help reduce the energy costs for the tenants thereby helping to address the issues of fuel poverty that many of the housing associations tenants are subject to. In addition, an extensive photovoltaic array on the roof provides the electrical loads for the communal areas of the scheme helping to reduce the energy costs for the tenants.
Beech Gardens is an exemplar of how contemporary architecture can provide an uplifting and inclusive environment for the provision of independent living for our elderly population and provide them with sociable and distinctive places to live.
Internal area 1,799 m²
Contractor S J Roberts
Quantity Surveyor / Cost Consultant Fellows Consultants
Structural Engineers CWA
Environmental / M&E Engineers Ravenhall Associates
Principal Designer Atelier Build
Structural Engineer (post-contract) Bob Johnson Structural Engineering